We recognise activities at our operated assets can impact the health of our people and the communities where we operate. Mandatory requirements to manage and protect the health and wellbeing of our employees and contractors are set by the Our Requirements for Health standard and our mandatory minimum performance requirements for risk management, as well as local regulatory requirements, standards and procedures.
The Our Requirements for Health standard is based on internationally accepted practice with requirements to identify occupational exposures with the potential to cause harm; assess the risk posed by those exposures; implement exposure controls; and where exposure cannot be immediately reduced to an acceptable level, provide personal protective equipment and undertake health surveillance. This approach is consistent with (or exceeds) regulation in our operating jurisdictions.
For guidance on the process to identify and assess occupational exposures, we specifically reference:
- American Industrial Hygiene Association’s A Strategy for Assessing and Managing Occupational Exposures
- International standard ISO TR7708:1995 Air quality – Particle size fraction definitions for health-related sampling
- UK Health and Safety Executive’s Health and Safety Laboratory Methods for the Determination of Hazardous Substances (MDHS)14/4: General methods for sampling and gravimetric analysis of respirable, thoracic and inhalable aerosols
- US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Manual of Analytical Methods and the UK HSE, Methods for the Determination of Hazardous Substances
- International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Radiation Protection and Safety of Radiation Sources: International Basic Safety Standards – Interim Edition General Safety Requirements Part 3. IAEA Safety Standards Series No. GSR Part 3 (Interim), 2011
- European Union standards for whole-body and hand-arm vibration
Some of the potential health risks at our workplaces include exposure to musculoskeletal stressors, noise, coal mine dust, silica and diesel particulate matter (DPM), and mental health impacts. We manage our exposures to potentially harmful agents with internally specified occupational exposure limits (OELs) based on available scientific evidence and implement a program of preventative health measures and wellbeing support.
For our occupational exposures, our process to set OELs involves periodic monitoring and evaluation of scientific literature, benchmarking against peers, engagement with regulators and OEL-setting agencies and expert independent advice. Our approach to monitoring and reviewing our internal OELs is designed to ensure they continue to be aligned with or are stricter than applicable regulated health limits. We implement a range of exposure reduction plans designed to reduce exposures to harmful substances to as low as reasonably practicable.
We conduct periodic medical surveillance to detect signs of potential occupational illness at an early stage and assist our people through the management of illness that is a result of exposure at our workplaces. Our medical surveillance program is based on local regulatory requirements and evidenced-based industry best practice. The effectiveness of our exposure controls is regularly reviewed and subjected to periodic audit to verify the controls are implemented and operating as designed.
In line with Our Charter and our culture of care, we undertake activities to enhance the physical and mental wellbeing of our employees. This includes the provision of preventative health measures as appropriate for the location, such as vaccinations, gym facilities, onsite physiotherapy, healthy food alternatives at our worker village accommodation and a range of mental health resources including our Employee Assistance Program.
A range of targeted health programs, such as the Better Sleep Program and Heat Management Program, are made available at our operated assets where there are relevant workplace issues. Workers at remote sites are provided with emergency medical care and primary health care through onsite medical facilities with telehealth consultations available. These services are provided by qualified individuals, including paramedics, occupational health nurses and medical practitioners, as appropriate, depending on the location. In most of our remote operations, these services are accessible during and after working hours.
We continue to monitor emerging health issues and trends through our membership of industry and professional associations, informal benchmarking, networking and participation in national and international conferences. We also monitor information from scientific journals and occupational health regulatory setting and advisory agencies. When a health issue has the potential to impact the health or wellbeing of our people, we apply BHP’s Risk Framework to identify, assess and manage the risk.
In FY2022, the reported occurrence of occupational illness (an illness that occurs as a consequence of work-related activities or exposure) for employees was 265, which was 3.89 per million hours worked, representing a decrease in incidence compared to FY2021, which was 4.36 per million hours worked.
For our contractor workforce, the reported occurrence of occupational illness (an illness that occurs as a consequence of work-related activities or exposure) in FY2022 was 151, which was 1.61 per million hours worked, a decrease in incidence compared to FY2021 which was 1.87 per million hours worked. Due to regulatory regimes and limited access to data, we do not have full oversight of the incidence of contractor noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) cases.
Excluded from this reporting are cases of COVID-19 among our employees and contractors that may potentially have arisen from workplace transmission. This is due to the inherent difficulty in concluding, with reasonable certainty, that a person was infected as a consequence of work-related activities or exposure in a setting of high levels of community transmission, evolving understanding of the epidemiological criteria for infection and COVID-19 variants with evidence of increased transmissibility.
Similar to previous years, musculoskeletal illness is the predominant occupational illness category representing 65 per cent of our workforce illnesses. These are conditions impacting the musculoskeletal system and connective tissues caused by repetitive work-related stress or strain or exposure over time. Musculoskeletal illness does not include disorders caused by slips, trips, falls or similar incidents.
Noise-induced hearing loss contributes to the second highest illness category representing 10 per cent of illnesses. Where workers are exposed to noise above acceptable levels, workers are placed in hearing conservation programs, which include a periodic hearing test and hearing protection fit testing. Through our Sustainability in Design program, we have also established design recommendations that seek to eliminate or reduce high or prolonged noise exposures. Other illness categories include skin diseases, temperature-related illnesses, mental illness, bites, stings and other unspecified illnesses.
BHP has for more than a decade set occupational exposure limits (OELs) for our most material exposures based on the latest scientific evidence. In the case of diesel particulate matter (DPM), BHP’s OEL is lower compared to current applicable regulatory requirements. Where exposures potentially exceed regulatory limits or our limits (where BHP has stricter limits than local regulatory requirements), respiratory protective equipment is required to be worn.
For our most material exposures of DPM, silica and coal mine dust, we had a five-year target to achieve, by the end of FY2022, a 50 per cent reduction in the number of workers potentially exposed1 as compared to our 30 June 2017 baseline exposure profile.2,3,4 Exposure data on this webpage in all cases is presented without considering protection afforded by the use of personal protective equipment (where required).
We are pleased to have achieved our target by reducing the total number of workers potentially exposed to our most material exposures by 68 per cent. That achievement at the end of FY2022 in number of workers potentially exposed to levels exceeding our OELs include; no workers potentially exposed to coal mine dust 78 per cent reduction in the number of workers potentially exposed to DPM5 and a 61 per cent reduction in the number of workers potentially exposed to respirable silica.
With the conclusion of our five-year public target, we will continue to manage exposures to as low as reasonably practicable by focusing our efforts in FY2023 on further implementation of exposure reduction projects, sustaining the exposure reductions achieved by leveraging our Risk Framework and identifying exposure reduction opportunities for inclusion in FY2024 plans and beyond.
Training on health hazards is provided in inductions at hire and periodically thereafter. Workers who use hearing and respiratory protective devices are provided with information on health exposures and training when they are fit tested for those devices. Where workers take part in occupational exposure assessment programs, they receive written feedback on their results and de-identified data is provided to line management.
We have implemented real-time monitoring devices in our Minerals Australia and Minerals Americas operated assets to support exposure reduction of silica and DPM. Fixed-position monitors can identify dusty conditions in real time, enabling controls such as increased ventilation or water sprays to be deployed. Data from personal monitors is available at the end of shifts rather than weeks later, when results of samples sent to the laboratory for analysis become available. This enables prompt action to be taken if potential exposure increases or exceeds our OEL.
1 For exposures exceeding our FY2017 occupational exposure limits, without considering protection afforded by the use of personal protective equipment (where required).
2 The baseline exposure profile is derived through a combination of quantitative exposure measurements and qualitative assessments undertaken by specialist occupational hygienists consistent with best practice as defined by the American Industrial Hygiene Association.
3 Occupational Exposure target excludes Projects .
4 The FY2017 baseline to FY2022 data has been adjusted to exclude Discontinued operations (Onshore US assets, Petroleum) and the divestment of BMC
5 FY2021 data includes adjustment to DPM exposures as a result of misstatement in previous year.
Coal mine dust lung disease
In our Sustainability Report for FY2017, we reported on the re-identification of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP) in our industry, the number of our current employees and former workers who had been diagnosed with CWP and the steps we had taken in response. We have updated this information in our reporting for each subsequent financial year.
As at 30 June 2022, 12 cases of coal mine dust lung disease (CMDLD)1 among our employees were reported to the Queensland Department of Natural Resources Mines and Energy (DNRME).2 In addition to these cases, there were four coal mine dust lung disease claims accepted in FY2022, which consisted of three former workers and one current worker. For cases involving current employees, we offer counselling, medical support and redeployment options where relevant.
We have implemented controls at all of our relevant operated assets with the goal of ensuring none of our workers are exposed to respirable coal mine dust in excess of our OEL. We continue to identify and progress projects, such as real-time dust monitoring, to ensure exposures remain controlled and seek to implement high order controls to eliminate or reduce exposures .
1 CMDLD is the name given to the lung diseases related to exposure to coal mine dust and includes coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, silicosis, mixed dust pneumoconiosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
2 Cases reported to DNRME are not an indication of work relatedness. BHP evaluates each case for work relatedness and where identified, the case will be included in occupational illness reporting.
The mental health of our people continues to be a focus. In FY2022, we continued to implement our Group-wide Mental Health Framework to raise awareness of mental wellbeing, reduce stigma and increase the capacity of our leaders to recognise and support individuals experiencing mental illness. As a founding member of the Global Business Collaboration for Better Workplace Mental Health, we continue to contribute to the global business-led alliance to advocate for and accelerate positive change for mental health in the workplace worldwide.
To support the proactive management of mental wellbeing and give our workforce the tools and skills needed to build resilience and positive mental health, we provide and promote the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), our mental health toolkit, Thrive, education and awareness campaigns (including stigma reduction) and the BHP Resilience Program.
Our operated assets and functions actively promote our Resilience Program, which is accessible to all levels of the organisation. The program looks at the link between our thoughts, feelings and behaviours, recognising early signs of pressure and stress, reframing our thinking, managing and reframing our thoughts in stressful times and ways to manage our wellbeing.
Our EAP continues to be promoted across BHP to provide access to counselling support as well as other support programs, such as Supervisor Support and the Better Sleep Program.
The Thrive mental health toolkit is available to all our employees to help them understand and manage mental health issues. It includes modules on mental health at home and at work, sleep and fatigue, mental health conditions and COVID-19 wellbeing resources.
In May 2022, we continued with our annual BHP Mental Health month, with the aim of increasing mental wellbeing and encouraging everyone to support and look out for one another. We continued to support global mental health campaigns during FY2022, including World Mental Health Day, R U OK? Day and Movember.
In FY2022, we also commenced work to develop a Group-wide psychosocial risk management approach with the aim of taking a proactive and systemic approach to sustaining a mentally healthy workplace. This process will contribute to achieving our 2030 goal for a safe, inclusive and future-ready workforce.